An improvement in shooting, a better mental approach and changes to his skiing technique are all measures Mark Arendz believes led to a perfect last full season ahead of the PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic Winter Games.
The 27-year-old Canadian was in outstanding form during the 2016/2017 season, winning five medals at February’s World Para Nordic Skiing Championships in Finsterau, Germany, including two golds and a silver in biathlon.
“It was emotional to once again be on the top step of the podium at a World Championships,” said Arendz who last won a world title in 2013.
“It has been a few years, but I know I needed those years to mature as an athlete. After the last Worlds, I was disappointed with my results. I didn’t have the speed or the accuracy to be in contention for medals.
“In Finsterau it was the other way around, I had world leading speed on the skis, and my accuracy was near perfect. At times it was a relief to see the effort I have put in over the past few years, showing in my performance and of course the excitement of being the very best on that day!”
It was not just at the World Championships where the two-time Paralympic medallist enjoyed success last season. He finished second in the biathlon World Cup overall rankings and sixth in cross-country. He was on the podium nine times - six in biathlon and three in cross-country.
“It was a fantastic season and a perfect lead into this upcoming year as I prepare for the Paralympic Winter Games in PyeongChang, South Korea,” he said.
Ahead of the season just gone, Arendz made some big changes, changes that have clearly paid off.
“The most notable change from the previous seasons must be the shooting. I changed coaches a year ago along with my approach to shooting,” Arendz explained.
“I virtually rebuilt my shooting from the foundations up throughout the year. I still know there is a bit more to improve regarding the shooting, but I am more than satisfied with how things went this year. Finding that spark again has helped a lot.”
He also worked hard on his skiing and his mental approach to training.
“A more methodical mindset in my training had a huge impact on what I was capable of achieving in every workout I had. No longer was it about how many hours I did but rather the quality of the time spent training,” said Arendz who also won two cross-country bronze medals at the 2017 World Championships.
“Skiing technique and strength seemed to come together this season. I was able to apply more of my power in the proper position to get the speed. It has taken the whole season, but I now have the confidence in my ski speed to contend in any race that I start.”
He is hoping that his new found ski speed and accuracy in shooting will carry onto the Paralympic Winter Games, from 9-18 March 2018.
“I don’t want to complicate things, keeping the training and the process simple will be the key for me,” he said.
“I want to show up in South Korea in March knowing I am as prepared as I can be. There will be an overall greater focus on intensity and speed throughout the year. The technique will be a vital part of the puzzle as well to maximize efficiency while skiing.”
All this careful preparation is designed to help Arendz win his first ever Paralympic title but he knows that it will not be easy.
“I will go into the Games controlling what I have control over. I cannot worry or focus on what others have done or are doing,” he said.
“I know what has worked for me over the past few years, so I will continue keeping my focus on that. If I cross the finish line and know I’ve done everything I could have done to ensure my best performance then the only thing to do is look up at the results.